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A biography, of sorts

I wasn’t going to post this today, but it makes the numbering of the subsequent musing much nicer.

Part of the implicit series Sam posts other things he’s written and then muses about them.

When you enter Grinnell’s CS department from the east end of the corridor, you’ll see a poster that has pictures and short biographies of all of the faculty and of our peer-education coordinator. Since the faculty rotate a bit, we have the opportunity to update our biographies each year. I haven’t updated mine in a while [1] and it’s dated enough that I thought I should make some changes. I also think mine was too long, so I’m trying to cut it down. Oh, it also appears that I’m the only one in the department who hasn’t provided our ASA [2] with a bio, so I guess I should do so now.

Here goes. We’ll start with the old version.

Scholarly Interests

I study a variety of issues near the intersection of media computing, hypertext, functional programming, computers in education, and computer science education. In my recent work, my students and I have considered the application of the functional paradigm, particularly higher-order functions, to issues of media computing. Among other things, we have built open-source scripting systems for raster graphics, vector graphics, and video. I have published over twenty-five refereed conference papers (many with student co-authors) and edited more than five volumes in related areas.

Teaching Emphases

I teach a wide variety of courses, both inside and outside computer science, from intellectual property to programming languages. I am particularly fond of the introductory courses in computer science, when I have a chance to get students excited about the discipline. I look for ways to make these courses more interactive with a focus on active learning, and I look for themes, such as media computation or computing for social good, to help motivate that learning.

I’m increasingly finding it important to help students think beyond their time at Grinnell. With support from a variety of resources, I’ve started an annual Learning from Alumni course in which alums visit class and talk to students about their life and careers beyond Grinnell. I’ve also introduced a one-credit experience-based course in C and Unix programming.


Much of my work crosses the boundaries between teaching and scholarship. I’m also involved in the free and open source (FOSS) movement. My students and I have extended free and open source projects as part of our research, and I regularly try to incorporate FOSS in my teaching. I consider it important to give students an opportunity to explore computer science in the environment that only a full-time, summer-long research or programming project can provide. I do my best to supervise as many of those projects as the College will permit. I believe I have a responsibility to help diversify my discipline. I do so in a variety of ways, such as inclusive teaching practices and individual mentoring. I’m beginning a project to encourage a wide variety of students to study CS through themed summer experiences on coding for the arts, coding for social good, and coding for digital humanities.

Definitely too long. Way too long. And a bit dated. If it suggests that I just started Learning from Alumni and Thinking in C and Unix [3], that means it’s been four or five years since I’ve changed it. Intersectionality is an inappropriate word, even though the things I do are at the intersection of multiple identities [4,5].

What do I want in the new one? I should mention MIST. I should mention the outreach camps, since they occupy a good deal of my time. And I should mention my more significant professional roles. I probably don’t need to write about teaching or summer research, particularly since we will soon have something out there about Research Opportunities for All.

Here’s my new bio.

I study a variety of issues near the intersection of media computing, functional programming, computers in education, and computer science education. Among other things, my students and I have developed a new approach to image making, the Mathematical Image Synthesis Toolkit, or MIST. I have published over twenty-five refereed conference papers (many with student co-authors) and edited more than five volumes in related areas. These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to better diversify our discipline. As part of those efforts, my students and I have been running and analyzing the benefits of summer code camps. In those camps, we’ve helped the students explore issues related to computing for social good, arts computing, and data science. We hope to add a digital humanities approach in our summer 2018 camps.

I also serve as one of two information director for the Association of Computing Machinery’s (ACM) Special Interest on Computing Education (SIGCSE), the leading organization for computing educators, as as vice chair of SIGCAS, the ACM’s Special Interest Group on Computers and Society, the branch of ACM concerned with societal and ethical issues in computing.

I went from approximately 372 words to 188. That means I cut it almost in half. Not bad for a word-spewer like myself. Good enough for this year. I can probably do some editing. But, well, it’s not worth my time.

Let’s hope that I’ll get next year’s revision done earlier.

[1] Whoops.

[2] Academic Support Assistant, if you have not been keeping track.

[3] A.k.a., Don’t embarrass me, don’t embarrass yourself.

[4] What was I thinking?

[5] And why hasn’t anyone called me out on it?

Version 1.0.2 of 2017-08-29.